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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Great American Lie

The discussion at church recently was about having regular prayer meetings. Some wanted to schedule something like a monthly prayer meeting. Other voices were skeptical. No, they weren't opposed to prayer or prayer meetings. They just didn't think it would fly. Eventually people wouldn't show up.

There are, of course, two possibilities here. Either the second group is right or they are wrong. (Takes a super-genius to figure that out, right?) It could be that the naysayers are wrong and we can just move on and have those prayer meetings. Or, hey, maybe they're so wrong that we can have prayer meetings more often, can't we? I know. How about once a week? Say, on Wednesdays?

Of course, my point is that, given the disappearance of the staple "Wednesday night prayer meeting" in so many churches, I think there might be some support for the argument that people wouldn't show up. But, why?

Trump's campaign (I'm not changing the subject ... bear with me) was supposedly built on the "Make America great again" theme. True or false, right or wrong, the idea behind "again" was/is that America has been a great nation. Most Americans (although I suspect fewer today than in bygone days) and a lot of other-than-Americans would agree. Built on principles of liberty and equality, our founding fathers formed a unique entity that thrived for a long time. Most would agree that it is not as great as it once was, but we think it was pretty keen at one point.

It is my opinion, then, that, devoid of the religious principles that underwrote it, these principles have circled around to strangle us, especially those of us who are Christians in America. Americans value independence. We respect that guy standing alone against all odds. We like the Lone Ranger. Independent. Free.

So church attendance falls and even where attendance remains the frequency declines. Sunday night worship? "No thanks. Too much." Wednesday night prayer? "Do you have any idea of how busy we are?" Sunday worship? "We'll try to make it ... when we can." We figure we've got this. We love God, right? So that's covered. And we pretty much have everything else covered. We have our income and our homes and our cars and our own skills and abilities. We've pretty well got it in hand. If we need any help, maybe we'll call on God, but otherwise it's a lot of lip service.

I am, of course, oversimplifying the problem. We are praying and going to church less for more than just American independence and self-confidence. But we are at least there. We think we've got this, so we aren't connecting with other believers as much despite the many "one anothers" of Scripture. We've got this, so we don't need to pray nearly as much despite the repeated commands to do that often and repeatedly. And we cut ourselves off from God and His people. And can't figure out why our Christian walk gets so stale.

I think America has had greatness. But when churches stop praying and Christians stop gathering -- when America ceases to be good -- America ceases to be great. In order to make America great again, we need believers on their knees together. The sad fact that Christians are relatively sure that prayer meetings will be poorly attended and we don't really need a Sunday night service anymore is stark evidence that America has bought the lie -- we don't really need God; we can make it on our own -- and the church has bought it, too.

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